Climbing up the ladder of social media marketing success

I recently gave a webinar about social media marketing success. This slide probably sums up whole webinar. Tell me what you think. Content, content, content, content.

ladder of knowledge SMM


Personal Branding for your business personality

So, I’ve joined all the social networks with one personality or another and kept my ear to the ground to listen for buzz about hot topics. The buzz meter is ringing on Google for the keyword string “personal branding“. At first, I looked into it and sort of wrote it off as something overly contrived. Let’s face it, blogs are supposed to be authentic and real. The more we manage our “personalities”, won’t the magic of the medium go away?

So, I mulled it over for a day or two and it started to make sense. I am the first to say that I use different personalities with my participation in the various social media tools. Simply put, this is what personal branding is about. Personal branding refers to building all the aspects of your online personality. Just as TV personalities portray a consistent image in their professional capacities, when not “on the air”, they probably don’t have the exact same personality. Their on-air personality might be professionally dressed with ne’er a less than tasteful word coming from their lips. But, certainly at home on Saturdays, they are wearing a t-shirt and possibly using less than tasteful words while watching a sports game.

Online, we all have a personality but perhaps we don’t think about it as being so formal that we have a “personality”. Think about it, even with your good friends, you are a little more careful in an email than you are in person. This is your email personality. In my various social media tool participation, I participate with the personalities of mom, business woman, social media professional, etc. This particular blog is internally focused for our Archadeck, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and Mosquito Squad franchise owners so my tone is much more natural.

Personal branding takes your online personality to the next level. Whereas we might be a little more careful about what we say in an email, we might be even more careful what we say in a WordPress blog post, in one of my twitter tweets, or on our Facebook Fan Page. We have a professional personality or a personal brand to uphold. Executing a personal branding strategy lives on 2 levels. The first level is formalizing and articularing your personal brand. The next level is marketing your personal brand.

On Twitter, my personal brand is a social media enthusiast. I follow the leading social media gurus like Robert Scobleizer almost exclusively. (Hopefully Robert will change his green gravatar soon) Therefore, one of my personal brand rules is NO PERSONAL POSTS. Your goal using social media and creating your personal brand is to be followed. It’s somewhat of a popularity contest. You want people to be interested enough in hearing what you say that they bookmark your blog, follow you on twitter, friend you on Facebook, etc. If I continued to articulate my personal brand on Twitter, I would say that I only contribute when my contribution is relevant, meaningful and interesting enough that the people I follow might be interested in reading. To do this, I work hard to follow the pulse of social media in other mediums, check twitter at least once/day and then my goal is to tweet according to strategy at least 3 times each week. At this point, you are probably thinking that this sounds so contrived that it’s not worth it. It is a little contrived. And, that does diminish the authenticity and thus the authenticity value of the content. But, through this process, I have learned a tremendous amount and made important professional connections that enjoy the benefits associated with business networking.

The second level of personal branding is to advertise your brand. In this step, you continue to socialize professionally through your chosen social media sites. But, in addition, you get out there and put references to yourself and your personal brand in other places. For example, you find another blog with interesting content and you comment on one of their blog posts with a link to your own blog. That gets your name in front of someone you would want to network professionally with. You join professional groups on LinkedIn and contribute content (with links to your social media) so other people in the group find out about your blog and your twitter, etc. You see if you can post on someone else’s blog as an author. You see if you can contribute an article to a professional publication where that article will be published on their website. You make sure they link that article back to your blog, etc.

There seems to be an expert, certainly self proclaimed, on personal branding. His name is Dan Schwabel. His blog is here.  This may not be in line with my personal brand but definitely meets the rule of authenticity: I think his picture is detrimental to his personal brand. He looks too young to be an expert and his suit looks somewhat mobsterish. I think it would benefit his personal brand to look a little more genuine, a little more happy, and perhaps just a little older. I am guessing after my review of his personally branded photo, it is very unlikely that he is going to follow me on Twitter.

Blogging for your business. How personal should you get?

One of my franchise owners asked me how personal we should get on our business blogs. I had a very strong opinion but researched quite a bit trying to find out if the experts agreed or didn’t agree with my gut decision. I found a couple good articles but didn’t find as many articles as I thought I would have found. The article I found used this great metaphor of braiding.  It was by Shel Israel. I had heard of him before but checked him out a little anyway. He has a published book on Amazon called Naked Conversations with a 4.5 star rating out of 5 with 50 reviews. I am also looking for a great SM book but more about that in a subsequent post.

Shel uses a braiding metaphor. He says we should braid personal narrative into our business conversations just as we do when we meet face to fact. He uses the example of a business breakfast or business lunch. This is such a great example. Think about having a lunch with a vendor or client. It would make us look overly stiff if we could only talk about business. And generally, personal conversation goes a little further than the weather report. We might talk about something we did over the weekend – participate in a race, go biking or maybe attend a great movie. These are safe things to talk about, don’t pin us down to any sort of strange personality or political leaning, and make us seem more real. What’s also important is the length of time we “weave” this personal narrative into our business conversation. This amount of time is small but this part of the braiding is very important.

So, I decided to take the braiding metaphor even further and to identify the 3 strands of the metaphor. The first is, obviously, business appropriate personal, the second strand is pure business and the third strand is the message or relate. Here’s the difference between the business and the message. The business strand is the content. This is the subject of the article/post. The message is why we are writing the post and how it relates to the reader. For example, one of our Outdoor Lighting franchise partners from Northern Virginia does a great job blogging. They wrote a post about burying low-voltage wires. This is the subject. The third part, the message, is the relate. This is why it matters to the reader. In the post, they go on to state why this is important. It also demonstrates why you need a professional outdoor lighting company instead of using a landscaper who either doesn’t know or doesn’t follow the code.

So the 1,2,3 of business blogging braiding is business-appropriate personal, subject/content, and message.

Why We Blog About Our Business

Some of you may wonder if it’s worth your time to blog about your business. After all, time is money and just thinking about what to write about for all those posts or articles makes you wonder how long you can keep it up. You’re trying to manage your business and don’t really need another task added to your plate of weekly activities, right?
Let me tell you, my husband and I thought about those “issues” too, and we bit the bullet and did it anyway. Want to know why?

Our interactive marketing director made some simple suggestions on different avenues we could explore to increase our on-line presence. A blog was one suggestion. Sure, why not? I’m close to 30, so I knew some friends who were into that, but I really did not know much about it. We went to opened a new account, picked a template, customized, and started writing! Patrick would write posts at night when he was home from work, I would edit it, then publish and voilà! We became “bloggers.” Patrick writes new posts every few days (sometimes he writes drafts when he is working during the day on his handy dandy iPhone) and I contribute quite frequently too.

Really, what does it boil down to? Why do we decide to maintain a blog for our business? The answer is: We want our prospects (and customers) to find out more about our business and about us. Have you ever felt limited by how much content you can put on your web page? If you put too much technical information on it, it feels overwhelming to the consumer. If you put too much personal information it may seem cheesy or borderline unprofessional, or perhaps just a sales pitch to use us because “we’re a family business and look isn’t our little baby just the cutest?”

Guess what? A blog is the perfect forum to really “express yourself” and share all the different aspects of your business. Patrick does great posts on particular lighting installations or service work we have done (thus keeping our blog fresh and relevant), technological advancements in lighting, his personal lighting design preferences, and the list goes on. I chime in with posts on lighting from a “non-technical” aspect, special events our company participates in, lighting related events/activities in our area, my thoughts on small family businesses, family fun in our region, updates on our family (yes, Patrick and I love to brag about our son who of course was the “cutest baby ever“), and so on.

Does blogging take up time? Sure it does, but think of it as a way to promote your business, give more insight into how your business operates and what sets you apart, and establish yourself as an “expert” in your field. During each day, remember to jot down ideas for your posts and maybe write quick drafts when something comes to your mind. Have your head installer or LCA technician write guest posts about a certain job you did in which you solved a problem for a customer or somehow went above-and-beyond to make sure the customer was well taken care of. Write posts about working with your favorite trade alliances and how their work compliments yours or vice versa (and be sure to e-mail a link to them to better solidify your partnership). This way blogging about your business won’t seem as time-consuming or overwhelming.

We’ve gotten positive comments and results from our past five months of blogging (I’ll blog about the specific ROI sometime in another future post). You can get results too! Guess what else? It’s free! Now you have no excuse not to try it out. So bite the bullet and start blogging about your business!

How to customize your appearance (widgets)

Hi everyone! Laura from Northern Virginia here to tell you what to do after you’ve set up a account.
The following are some customization ideas for your new blog:

1. Change the template from the standard blue one to a different one.
Click on “Dashboard”
Then click on “Appearance” which will bring you to a “Manage Themes” page.
I think the “Ambiru”, “Connections”, “MistyLook” or “Ocean Mist”  templates look great. If you want a darker template, you can try adjusting the colors, or try “Chaos Theory”, “Freshy”, “Neat” or “ChaoticSoul” (we use this one). Try some of the different templates out and see what you like.
You can add a customized header (like ours with the path light/OLP logo and picture of one of our homes lit up).  Robin Steele can help you create a custom header for your blog, similar to ours.

2. Change the name of your blog.
Click on “Dashboard”
On the left-hand side click on “Settings”
This should bring you directly to “General Settings”
Change the blog title from “USERNAME’s blog” to something like “Outdoor Lighting of NAME OF YOUR TERRITORY Blog” or “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives – Exterior Lighting Solutions and Bright Ideas Blog” or you can keep your name but actually add spaces between words. For example, Kenneth and Staci Wells chose the username “alamocitylights” and their blog’s web address is: They can change their blog name (what appears across the top of their page) to “Alamo City Lights”. As you can see on their blog page, they decided to customize theirs even further and give it the name “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio Weblog”
I suggest you also change the tag line from “Just another blog” to something that describes what your blog is about and include key search terms that you think customers are searching for on-line when looking for our services. Something like “A blog about outdoor lighting for residential and commercial applications in NAME YOUR TERRITORY” this may be too long to fit, but it is in small print. Kenneth and Staci used “Outdoor lighting for landscape, architectural, and outdoor living applications in San Antonio and the Hill Country” as their tag line.

3. Add more widgets
Click on “Dashboard”
Click on “Appearance”
At the top where it says “Current Theme” and has a picture of your template, click on “Widgets” under options.
The available widgets will appear and you can add more widgets (ie, things on your sidebar of the blog, such as text boxes, recent posts, pictures, links, etc.
I suggest you add:

A) Links/Blogroll for your local OLP webpage
Change the default “blogroll” from the wordpress websites to sites like
Your local webpage
Outdoor Lighting Photos from Flickr
Free Nighttime Design Sign-up Form
YouTube Videos on Outdoor Lighting
A Main Link to Your Main Blog Page
and anything else you think is good to add.
You can add links by clicking on “Dashboard” and then “Links” on the left-hand side. Then click “Add New”. This will allow you to type in a title, the web address, and a description (if you like… I did not include descriptions on ours).
Also, I would suggest changing the default heading “blogroll” to “links” (most people visiting the blog will not be familiar with the term “blogroll”).
You do this by adding a new link, like mentioned above and then under the “Categories” section clicking “Add new category” type in “Links” and click the “add” button.

B) Option to email you.
Create a text box entitled “Contact Me Via Email” and in the body of the text box type the exact format as it appears below
<a href=””>Click here to email me</a>
Make sure you type in your correct email address in lieu of my example one  The support forums do not suggest actually typing in your email address so that it is visible to blog readers, because spambots search blogs for such email addresses.  None of us need more spam in our inboxes!

C) Text with key search terms
Create another text box with Arbitrary text or HTML, including key search terms. Use these terms for SEO (search engine optimization). Type in anything and everything that your potential clients would search on-line to find out more about outdoor lighting.  Ours were: “Outdoor lighting northern va, landscape lighting northern virginia, low voltage lighting northern virginia, architectural lighting northern va, elegant exterior lighting va, outdoor lighting northern virginia, lighting contractor, outdoor lighting arlington va, outdoor lighting fairfax county va, outdoor lighting loudon county, outdoor lighting prince william county, outdoor lighting fauquier county, outdoor lighting stafford county, outdoor lighting warren county, deck lighting northern virginia, outdoor lighting washington dc metro, nighttime lighting design, outdoor lighting garden lights, outdoor lights northern virginia, garden lighting northern virginia, outdoor lights northern va”

D) Add video to your widgets/side bar by using Vod Pod
Read here on how to do that:
Add these videos to your Vod Pod and any others you want

E) Add Flickr widget from the options of widgets.  Give it a title such as “Outdoor Lighting Photos” and fill in the proper RSS feed.  If you have your own Flickr account, fill this in.  If you want to use the main OLP one type in the following for the Flickr RSS URL:

Those are just some suggestions with which to start.  Below is the web address of the online forum for blogs incase you need to search for an answer on how to do something or post a question to their experts:
Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
Once you have set-up and customized your blog, please post a comment to this article and include your web address of your new blog so others can see it!

Google AdWords book recommendation from Pat

Hi everyone!  It was great to see you at the annual meeting in Dallas.  We hope you found the Social Marketing Round-Table facilitated by Robin, Laura and I informative and applicable for your market.

I highly recommend the book Winning results with Google AdWords by Andrew Goodman.  Even if you are looking to hire someone to manage your Google AdWords, you should educate yourself to make certain they know what they are doing. 

This book is easy to read, gives you the history of internet advertising, and can help you save thousands of dollars each year on advertising.  After reading it we were able to change our entire ad campaign, reduce costs, increase our CTR (click thru rate), and drive more traffic to our local web page. 

Google AdWords can help give you a solid foundation for your internet marketing campaign.
If you have any questions, please let me know.

Brightest regards,
Pat in Northern Virginia